Adam Marshall has urged National Australia Bank (NAB) customers in Guyra and Uralla to consider immediately changing who they bank with, as he condemned the financial institution's decision to close branches in both towns.
A disgusted Mr Marshall said just as agriculture, retail and hospitality businesses were finally starting to recover from the drought and bushfires, NAB had decided to turn its back on some of its most loyal customers.
"It's been exactly 12 months since NAB attempted to close its Uralla branch, using COVID-19 restrictions and a decline in over-the-counter-transactions as an excuse," the Northern Tablelands MP said.
"In that instance people power saw the decision overturned, however, not happy with that, NAB is now kicking our hard-working small businesses and families in the guts again, with the complete loss of face-to-face services.
"This is a bastard act from a company that no longer deserves country people's support.
"They're walking away from us and I'd urge those who can to walk away from them."
But the timeline they put on that promise expired this year.
For small towns it has been on ongoing battle to keep branches where customers can bank in person, due to declining transaction numbers.
Then he said the bank had no understanding of country communities and no loyalty to the people.
This time Mr Marshall said NAB was preying on the loyalty of country people, no doubt hoping its customers remain, despite this latest slap in the face.
"Country people traditionally have been loyal in how they shop, bank and insure but loyalty is a two-way street and these NAB shysters haven't shown much loyalty to its customers in the bush and I believe we no longer owe any to them," he said.
The big-four bank maintains the service level won't drop for customers in Guyra or Uralla, but mayors of the local councils aren't convinced.
Armidale Regional Council (ARC) mayor Ian Tiley said the move means Guyra residents will need to travel an 80 kilometre round-trip to do face-to-face banking.
"This has been a continuum for 30 or more years with banks leaving country towns, it's disappointing," he said.
"In a country town you don't want to lose any service, you try to augment and the objective is to keep people in those towns.
"The population growth in Armidale is in excess of two per cent at the moment, because people are frightened of COVID and moving out to the bush, if the big institutions like NAB pull out of Guyra it will make it harder for it to grow."
The two branches will close on October 7 and NAB maintains there will be no job losses.
Staff will be able to work from other branches or provide phone or video assistance, NAB retail customer executive Wesley Tronson said.
"Over the past few years, fewer customers are coming into branches to do their banking and foot traffic has lessened, which has been accelerated by COVID," he said.
"More than 50 per cent of our customers in Guyra and Uralla have only visited these branches once in the last year and 70 per cent of customers are also using other branches in the region such as Armidale."
The Armidale branch will undergo a refurbishment later this year.
Uralla Shire Council mayor Michael Pearce said he will continue to fight to keep the branch, or look to other institutions to serve the town.
"The closure of the NAB branch will leave Uralla with one bank," he said.
"We have an elderly community and a lot of them still have the old-fashioned bank books.
"It's disappointing, we thought we had fought this before and it's come back again, we have a large elderly population here and people need banking."
Mr Marshall said he would be writing to NAB management, calling for the branch to remain open.
Uralla Shire Council is also writing to the bank.
"My position has always been clear when it comes to the big four banks maintaining a presence in regional communities; if you have paying local customers, you should offer local services," Mr Marshall said.
"Along with deserting Uralla and Guyra, NAB has also turned its back on its motto 'More than Money'.
"I encourage NAB to reconsider this decision, do the right thing and choose people over profits."
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